For the past 18 months, Americans haven’t been able to get through a single day without thinking about the pandemic. It has consumed the news, our thoughts, and the resources of hospitals. Throughout much of the past year, many non-emergency medical appointments had to be indefinitely postponed or conducted via online video chat, when possible.
The pandemic isn’t over, but hospital practices and policies began to change dramatically when the Covid-19 vaccines became widely available. Now, even as cases surge because of Covid variants, American healthcare providers are responding to a pent-up demand for medical appointments and treatments. What could this mean for the quality of healthcare and patient safety?
Some patient safety advocates are predicting that the number of injurious medical errors will almost certainly go up with the increased demand for care. The busier physicians and hospitals are, the greater likelihood of mistakes and patient injuries. This is especially true because medical facilities are trying to deliver more care with fewer staffers and reduced access to certain equipment (like ventilators).
The pandemic was unprecedented in our lifetime, and it is understandable that hospitals would have to make difficult tradeoffs during times of peak infection rates. But many providers are now welcoming patients back in large numbers for non-emergency treatments. Without proper safeguards in place, that is a recipe for a high number of medical errors and subsequent legal liability. And more injuries and deaths are something America can never afford.